Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Downer EDI abruptly abandons a Burma project after the press asks questions

by Ben Bland
Asian Sentinel

An Australian Company's Hot Potato

One of Australia's largest engineering companies is abruptly pulling out of Burma after an investigation by Asia Sentinel revealed that a subsidiary was working on the construction of a lavish new airport for the repressive junta in Naypyidaw, the generals' reclusive capital.

Downer EDI's Singaporean consultancy arm, CPG Corporation, was contracted to design the revamped airport at Naypyidaw, working alongside Asia World, the shady Burmese conglomerate whose management are targeted by sanctions in Australia, the US and Europe.

The revelation that it has been doing business in Burma is highly embarrassing for a company that has donated thousands of dollars to Australia's ruling Labor Party and has won billions of dollars in Australian government contracts. Prime Minister and Labor leader Kevin Rudd has been vociferous in his condemnation of the Burmese regime and last year his government ratcheted up sanctions against the generals and their cronies.

The Sydney-based Downer claimed that it had been unaware that its wholly-owned subsidiary was working on the Naypyidaw project until it was contacted by Asia Sentinel last week. The Australian parent company also said it had been unaware of CPG's involvement as a design consultant for the upgrading of the international airport in Rangoon in 2003.

"As soon as this matter was brought to the attention of the chief executive, enquiries were made immediately and a decision followed to withdraw from the contract in an appropriate manner," said Maryanne Graham, a spokeswoman for Downer.

The company admitted that its "zero harm" policy had "not been applied at a sub-divisional level" and said that it was launching a "rigorous" review of all its contracts and beefing up its governance procedures to ensure better oversight of future operations.

In 2005, the Burmese military government suddenly announced that it was moving its administrative capital from Rangoon to a new site near the town of Pyinmana in the heart of a malaria-infested jungle in central Burma. The government, which calls itself the State Peace and Development Council, claimed that Rangoon had become overcrowded but most observers believe the move to Naypyidaw was the result of superstition and a paranoid desire to build a city that was better protected from both internal and external ‘enemies'.

Human rights groups claim that much of Naypyidaw, where the generals hide away in luxuriant palaces, was constructed using forced labor, including children, and that many local residents had their land seized without adequate compensation. Such gross human rights abuses are common practice in large development projects in Burma, which usually directly benefit the regime and its cronies while doing little to alleviate the extreme poverty and hardship faced by many Burmese people.

Downer, which is a constituent of Australia's benchmark ASX 200 share index and has a market capitalization of around A$1.7bn (US$1.3bn), is actively involved in a variety of infrastructure, rail and mining projects in Australia, New Zealand and the wider Asia Pacific region.

A report in the New Light of Myanmar, the mouthpiece of the military junta, dated 25 April claimed that the expansion of Naypyidaw airport was intended to increase international travel to the city, even though most foreigners are banned from visiting except on official visits.

The insecure generals, who regularly talk up the threat of internal and external enemies, have been careful to ensure that most of the country's civilian airports can be easily adapted to military use at short notice. The New Light of Myanmar noted rather ominously that the new runway at Naypyidaw airport will be big enough to ensure that "10 aircrafts can land simultaneously" – an exercise not commonly undertaken by passenger airliners.

The newspaper added that while CPG had produced the designs for the airport, the construction work was being carried out by Asia World, the Burmese conglomerate owned and run by two of the junta's key henchmen Steven Law (Tun Myint Naing) and his father, Lo Hsing Han.

Last year, the US Treasury implemented economic sanctions against both men as well as Law's wife, Cecilia Ng, and the string of companies they control in Burma and Singapore.

In a statement released in February 2008, the Treasury noted that both men had a history of involvement in the illegal drugs trade. "Lo Hsing Han, known as the ‘Godfather of Heroin', has been one of the world's key heroin traffickers dating back to the early 1970s," the Treasury claimed. "Steven Law joined his father's drug empire in the 1990s and has since become one of the wealthiest individuals in Burma."

While Canberra does not have any financial sanctions against Burmese companies, both Law and his father are the subject of individual sanctions in Australia. That means that any transactions involving "the transfer of funds or payments to, by the order of, or on behalf of" Law and his father are prohibited without prior approval from the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Graham confirmed that CPG was "contracted by a Singapore-based entity to undertake a design assignment for the Naypyidaw Airport". She added that while CPG was not doing business directly with Asia World, Downer believed that "the Singapore-based entity may be a subsidiary of Asia World".

"We take zero harm very seriously and while not insinuating anything against our direct client in Singapore, we are taking action to withdraw from this assignment in an appropriate manner," Graham said. "We are also working to ensure that we meet all of our reporting obligations to the relevant authorities in light of this unintentional oversight."

CPG started life as the Singapore government's public works department before it was corporatized and eventually sold off by sovereign wealth fund Temasek to Downer for S$131m (US$90) in 2003. While many Australian companies refuse to do business in Burma, there are fewer qualms in Singapore, which is one of the biggest investors in its Southeast Asian neighbor.

But although CPG has been active in the country for some time, it was initially reluctant to talk about its Burmese operations, with a Singapore-based spokeswoman telling Asia Sentinel that "we cannot discuss any details of this project due to client confidentiality". However, alarm bells went off in Downer's Sydney headquarters when the company was contacted by Asia Sentinel and the chief executive, Geoff Knox, was forced to act quickly to prevent further reputational damage.

Questions still remain about how a large publicly-listed company such as Downer could have allowed a subsidiary to operate with such a free hand and how its audit and governance procedures failed to pick up on the fact that CPG had consistently been doing business in such a controversial location.

Downer has faced a series of mounting problems in recent years, including a string of profit warnings and contractual disputes. But a new management team was appointed last year and it has only recently completed a lengthy restructuring process.

Downer is likely to face some sort of financial penalty as it seeks to withdraw from the Naypyidaw airport contract but Graham said that the company's main focus was on its "strong value-based system". "Any financial ramifications aren't our greatest concern," she explained, adding that, as a publicly-listed company, Downer would update the market if there was any material impact to its financial position.

May 11th, 2009

READ MORE---> Downer EDI abruptly abandons a Burma project after the press asks questions...

Businessmen suffer due to severe restriction

Narinjara -Businessmen, mostly Arakanese, are suffering setbacks while trading with Bangladesh because of restrictions imposed by local government authorities on the western Burma border, said a businessman in Maungdaw.

“There are various restrictions imposed by local government authorities on businessmen on the western Burma border. We cannot run our business freely. Despite having permission from the authorities to trade with Bangladesh, we are facing many restrictions,” he said.

The border security force Nasaka has imposed varied restrictions on businessmen travelling to Bangladesh without ascribing any reason.

“The Nasaka authorities allow ferry boats to leave for Teknaf in Bangladesh from Maungdaw only at 4 pm every day. It does not allow any ferry to Bangladesh at other times of the day. We are allowed a 7-day visa to visit Bangladesh but we have to go by ferry boat to Bangladesh across the Naff River,” he said.

When traders arrive in Teknaf, it is nightfall and they lose the opportunity of doing business there, he added.

Local sources say if any businessman wants to go Bangladesh with the 7-day visa, they have to submit an application to Nasaka headquarters. After Nasaka issues the permission they (businessmen) have to visit the immigration office to collect their visas.

“The Nasaka officials issue the permission around 2 pm every day. It becomes very late. It is never issued before 2 pm. After receiving permission from Nasaka we have to go to the immigration office to submit our passport for visa. The immigration office issue visas at 4 pm every day. This delays going to Bangladesh by ferry boat,” the businessman added.

Even though many businessmen face this problem every day, they have to go Bangladesh every evening.

“When we return to our town of Maungdaw from Teknaf, it is midnight. All businessmen face the problem daily. But the authorities have not changed their time table to suit businessmen,” he said.

Senior government authorities in Naypyidaw always say when they visit Maungdaw that the government encourages local businessmen to trade with Bangladesh for development of the region but in actual terms the authorities are creating problems for the businessmen in border trade.

READ MORE---> Businessmen suffer due to severe restriction...

Tough commanders to handle ceasefire groups

S.H.A.N. -The ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has transferred hard-nosed commanders to areas where recalcitrant ceasefire groups are in control, according to a recent report coming to the border.

The new line up of the chiefs of bureaux of special operations (BSO) who in effect are responsible for security of 2 states or divisions upwards are as follows:

Kachin, Shan, Kayah, Karen and Mon states currently have at least 13 ceasefire groups:
The new appointments had coincided with the new offer to the ceasefire groups to be re-organized as auxiliary forces of the Burma Army. A reorganized 326 strong auxiliary battalion will be still commanded by ceasefire commanders at least in name but supervised by Burma Army officers.

Most groups have voiced their opposition to the scheme. “Before this they only wanted us to surrender our arms,” a senior ceasefire commander SHAN met in Panghsang last month said. “Now they want us to surrender ourselves and our men also.”

READ MORE---> Tough commanders to handle ceasefire groups...

Lethal dengue fever hits Irrawaddy

(DVB)–A lethal strain of dengue fever has hit Burma’s southern Irrawaddy division, and left hospitals struggling to cope with the influx of patients, many of whom are under seven-years-old.

A resident of Irrawaddy’s Henzada town said that the local hospital was running out of beds in its children's ward.

“The hospital staff now have to use chairs as makeshift beds for all the child patients in the town and from nearby small townships,” said the resident.

“Recently, two children have died of the fever and the hospital is asking help from sympathisers to donate as many beds as they can.”

He added that local clinics were also being crowded with children who suffered from the fever.

Hemorrhagic dengue fever is passed through the bite of a mosquito, and is common in Burma around the onset of the monsoon season.

Another resident from Henzada’s Yongyi ward said that locals in his area were also suffering from chicken pox and an outbreak of dysentery.

Henzada township hospital and the Township Peace and Development Council were unavailable for comment.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

READ MORE---> Lethal dengue fever hits Irrawaddy...

Health crisis for Burma’s political prisoners

(DVB)–Systematic torture and denial of healthcare to political prisoners in Burma has caused a spiraling health crisis, while dissenters are being imprisoned with increasing frequency, said a report released yesterday.

Since last October, 350 activists have been sentenced, bringing the total number of political prisoners in Burma to over 2,100.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners - Burma (AAPP), who yesterday released ‘Burma’s prisons and labour camps: Silent killing fields’, say that political prisoners are receiving harsher sentences than ever before, with 127 now reportedly in poor health.

“The situation for Burma’s political prisoners is dire,” said Bo Kyi, joint secretary of AAPP.

“Leading activists have been transferred to the most remote prisons, where there are no prison doctors, and they are more likely to contract diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.”

The report points to several prominent political prisoners who are now reported to be in poor health.

Renowned comedian Zarganar, who is serving 35 years in the remote Myitkyina prison in northern Kachin state after speaking to foreign media following last year’s cyclone Nargis, was last month reportedly suffering swollen liver and jaundice.

A doctor who visited imprisoned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week revealed that she was suffering from dehydration and low blood pressure, and was not eating.

Medical care inside prisons is often only obtained through bribes, and even then lacks adequacy. According to the report, at least 12 of the 44 prisons in Burma do not even have a doctor.

Visiting family members are often the sole source of medicine, but increasing transfers of political prisoners to remote jails, sometimes two days travel from families, compounds the already dire health situation.

“Prison transfers are also another form of psychological torture by the regime, aimed at both the prisoners and their families,” says the report.

Aung Myo Thein, who spent six and a half years in prison following the 1988 uprising, says that even after release, prisoners suffer from terminal health problems.

“I was held in a cell, along with four others, that measured three and a half meters by two and a half meters, and we were allowed outside for fifteen minutes each day,” he said.

“Due to the length of time spent in a small and enclosed space, many former prisoners continue to suffer eye problems.”

Furthermore, the various methods of torture, such as being forced to stand or walk with shackles attached to the legs and a horizontal bar forcing the knees apart, leaves prisoners with considerable mobility problems years after their release.

“Many political prisoners have already died in prison,” said Bo Kyi.

“This has to stop. The regime must end its cruel and inhumane practices, and release all political prisoners.”

AAPP is currently coordinating a global campaign for Burma’s political prisoners, which aims to collect 888,888 petition signatures before 24 May, the date the military junta claims that Aung San Suu Kyi should be released from house arrest.


Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Health crisis for Burma’s political prisoners...

Suu Kyi's doctor reportedly facing charges

(DVB)–The health of imprisoned Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is said to be improving following news of illness, although unconfirmed reports claim her doctor faces charges under the Emergency Act.

Last week, the leader of opposition party National League for Democracy (NLD) was reported to be suffering from dehydration and low blood pressure, and had not eaten for four to five days.

The spokesperson for the NLD said today that her health had improved, although more attention needed to be given to Suu Kyi’s medical condition.

“Her health is improving and there is nothing to worry much at the moment but Dr Pyone Mo Ei said the medical assistance needs to be continued,” said Nyan Win.

The NLD’s leader has been under house arrest for 13 of the last 19 years, and is in the sixth year of her current internment.

Last Wednesday news surfaced of the arrest of a US citizen, John William Yettaw, who allegedly swam across Rangoon’s Lake Inya and entered Suu Kyi’s compound, where he spent two nights.

The following day, Suu Kyi’s doctor, Tin Myo Win, was refused entry to her compound, where he is allowed to visit once a month, and was arrested.

His assistant, Dr Pyone Mo Ei, had been allowed to treat her up to yesterday, and had administered an intravenous drip.

Tin Myo Win is now reportedly in court facing unspecified charges under the Emergency Act, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years, although no-one can confirm the reasons for his arrest.

“We also heard about [the charges] but it’s not confirmed, and we have not had any updated information regarding Dr Tin Myo Win,” said Nyan Win.

Rumours have circulated wildly about the sequence of events surrounding Suu Kyi, with some Burmese observers suggesting there may be a link between the arrest of the doctor, and the break-in by the US citizen.

Little official information has been given about either incident, however.

Reporting by Aye Nai

READ MORE---> Suu Kyi's doctor reportedly facing charges...

Detained American Visited Suu Kyi Before?

The Irrawaddy News

BANGKOK — An American accused of swimming across a lake to sneak into the home of detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi may have made another secret visit to her last year.

Last week's incident—the first known case of someone creeping unnoticed into Suu Kyi's closely guarded compound—has raised fears that the Nobel Peace laureate may have been ensnared in activities that could put her in further legal trouble.

A new report in a Burmese-language Web site published two photos said to have been found in the digital camera of the visitor, identified by the US Embassy as John William Yettaw. One photo shows a heavyset, middle-aged man posing for a self-portrait in front of a mirror. The other shows feet wearing swimming flippers. The report says Yettaw is from Falcon, Missouri.

The Web site, tharkinwe.com, seems to be close to the country's military-ruled government and hostile to Suu Kyi's democracy movement.

Pro-democracy activists and diplomats in Rangoon have voiced suspicions that the incident may have been concocted by the government. There has been no government comment beyond the original report in the state-run press.

Suu Kyi has already spent more than 13 of the last 19 years—including the past six—in detention without trial for her nonviolent promotion of democracy, despite international pressure for her release.

Her house is a restricted zone, she has no telephone, and she cannot be contacted for comment.

Burma's state-run newspapers reported last week that Yettaw swam on the night of May 3 to the lakeside home of the 63-year-old Suu Kyi and left the same way on the night of May 5, before being arrested the next morning. The swimming distance between the house and where he was arrested is about 1 1/4 miles (2 kilometers).

The reports said the man was found with an empty 1.3-gallon (5-liter) plastic water jug—presumably used as a floatation device—as well as a US passport, a flashlight, pliers, a camera, two $100 bills and some local currency.

Aside from the number of his passport and the claim that the man arrived in Rangoon on May 2 and spent two full days inside Suu Kyi's compound, no other details were given. The authorities were said to be investigating his motives. (JEG's: of course that is all the junta can provide as they have no imagination to develop the plan)

The US Embassy has requested access to the detained man, which as of Monday had still not been granted, embassy spokesman Richard Mei said. He confirmed that Yettaw had made a previous visit to Burma, and said his family had been told of his arrest.

Mei said the embassy did not know about Yettaw's activities.
(JEG's: he has been in Burma before but not to meet DASSK, but his hirer...)

Verifying the detained man's identity has been complicated because the spelling of his name has varied slightly in the Burma's official press. But the name given by the embassy is consistent with details in Monday's Web site account, some of which The Associated Press have confirmed using US public records.

Neighbors, along with a phone listing and court records, confirm that a 53-year-old man named John William Yettaw has a residence in the small rural community of Falcon, Missouri, and previously lived in California. Yettaw has a wife and seven children, most or all of whom live nearby.

Repeated calls to Yettaw's friends and family went unanswered, and messages left had not received a reply by Monday.

The account on the tharkinwe.com Web site included several details that do not seem to be otherwise publicly available, suggesting that they were leaked by security officials. No attribution was given for them.

The most surprising assertion was that Yettaw had confessed to swimming to Suu Kyi's house during his earlier visit to Burma on November 7-December 3, 2008 and staying there for a longer period, not specified in the report. It cited him saying that he had scouted his swimming route using the Google Earth web service.

The Web site's report also said that on arrival last week at Suu Kyi's house, Yettaw first met her two female assistants—a mother and daughter who are her sole allowed companions—and told them that he was tired and hungry after the swim and has diabetes. The two women, supporters of Suu Kyi's party, were said to have given him food.

One of many strict rules the junta imposes on citizens is that they must notify local officials about any overnight visitor who is not a family member. The law also states that foreigners are not allowed to spend the night at a local's home.

Some members of Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, have been jailed for about two weeks for violating that law.

"I'm not really concerned she could be penalized for this break-in because she didn't invite him in," said Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi's party, adding that it was worrisome how easily the man accessed her home. "My main concern is her security."

Suu Kyi is not allowed visitors, aside from her doctor. On infrequent occasions, she is allowed out under tight guard to meet with fellow party leaders and visiting UN representatives.

Another doctor, Dr. Pyone Moe Ei, was granted a medical visit to her home Monday afternoon after she was found last week to be suffering from dehydration and low blood pressure. Her main doctor, Tin Myo Win, was detained last week for questioning after the swimming incident.

Suu Kyi's condition was not disclosed.

Associated Press Writer Maria Fisher in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.

READ MORE---> Detained American Visited Suu Kyi Before?...

Local media awaits permission to print intruder's photograph

by Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The local media in Burma is waiting for permission from the censor board to report the intrusion into Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's residence by a foreigner along with his photograph.

The local media reported on it by quoting the May 6 issue of 'New Light of Myanmar' (NLM) which said John William Yeattaw swam across the Inya Lake in Rangoon and intruded into the lakeside villa of DASSK on May 3. The local media reported the news only with the facts mentioned in the NLM along with the news photograph of the intruder. Now they are awaiting permission from the censor board to reproduce the news and news photographs.

"We submitted the news photograph also. But we cannot say yet what will be the outcome. Our news report is the one mentioned in the NLM and will be ok," an editor of a weekly journal who wished not to be named said.

NLM reported that the intruder stayed at the residence of detained Nobel Peace Laureate for two days. He left on May 5 and was arrested on May 6 while he was swimming across the Inya Lake in Rangoon.

The local media wants to report the news but some precautionary media made self-censorship has held them back.

"We deleted this news ourselves as part of a self-censorship. How can we report such sensitive news? If we reproduce this news knowingly, we will certainly face the ire of the censor board. They will censor more news of our publication and we cannot get any favour and privilege from them. It's better not to report such news if we know they will certainly censor it," a reporter from a weekly journal said.

The NLM reported that over 90 pieces of Kyat 1,000 denomination Burmese currency notes, some USD currency notes, a camera, a folded pliers and a torch light were found in the possession of the intruder after arrest.

But the news didn't mention anything about the health condition of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Her family doctor Dr. Tin Myo Win was not allowed to visit her on May 7 for a regular medical checkup usually conducted on the first Thursday of every month. Moreover he was detained later.

On May 8, Dr. Pyone Moe Ei, the assistant of Dr. Tin Myo Win, was allowed to visit DASSK for a medical checkup. The doctor found DASSK was suffering from dehydration, hypertension with high blood pressure and loss of appetite. She was administered an intravenous drug, the doctor said.

The authorities denied the doctor's request to visit her again the next day.

Her party, the 'National League for Democracy', called on the junta to review the detention order on their party leader who is being held beyond the limit prescribed by the law. But it was rejected.

READ MORE---> Local media awaits permission to print intruder's photograph...

Burmese education department lowers the bar in hopes of projecting student success

Mon Son, IMNA

In an effort to improve the public image of the school systems, the Burmese government’s education department issued a mandate that teachers must facilitate the student’s graduation process regardless of their skill level.

In Moulemin Townships the Burmese government is attempting to control enrolment in the school system in order project increases in both student numbers and graduation rates. However most of the high school students can’t read or speak English and students are struggling to write Burmese properly, according to headmasters.

The instructions given to the school system required that students in grades 1 to 7 must pass every year, despite poor grades, and that students in their 8th and 9th year must achieve a certain percentage on their tests, according to a source from the Burmese government education department in Mon State.

“About two months before student test results came out, the education department called the head school in every township, and insisted that in grades 8 and 9, 70 to 80 percent of the student class must graduate,” said a Moulemin high school principle.

Many 10th year students, facing their final year in high school before exams that will place them in university, never complete their studies in their subjects, as they are now able to pass their exams at a reduced skill level. Many students in Burma, from grades 1 to 10, now seek tutoring in the subjects they would otherwise cover in school.

Additionally the Burmese government announced to teachers that all children who are of age must to attend school, in order to increase the student enrolment at each school.

“In my opinion most students have not received enough education since they were in elementary school under the system the government education system.” stated a 58 year old headmaster, “Although they go on to graduate from University, they don’t have the skills that would allow them to work in the government departments or at a private company. So instead, students leave Burma to find jobs in other countries. The government does not have enough jobs to give students who have graduated from university.”

Jobs in the government are gained after students who make the highest rank in their class attend elite government universities, where they receive specific training that will qualify them to enter the government work force. The high school scoring scale works on a 100 point system, where students achieve distinction if they score between 75-80, and receive distinction in ranks of I, II, or III. Students who do not rank at the top of their class do go on to university (also run by the government).

Some parents, are not particularly concerned about their children’s education because the changes make it easier for them to graduate. However the government demands have also undermined the ability of teachers to teach.

The mother of one student from Mudon township said, “ I am very happy because my children pass every year until 7 grade. But I am worried about grades 9 and 10. If their basic knowledge is not up to par, they will not pass their final high school test.” “Because of our students’ poor education, we have to make even more of an effort to ensure they understand all the subjects, especially in match and English classes.” An elementary class teacher in Mudon Township said, “For parents who understand the government changes, they worry for their children.

These parents encourage their child to succeed, and to study hard even if their friends are not. However students are very happy because they know that they will pass every year.” In Burma, students in grades 1 through 7 have monthly tests and at the completion of each exam will not study the subject again. In these grades students can pass their exams with a score of 40 (out of 100), however if students fall below this mark, they will graduate regardless, and move on to the next year. Students in grades 8, 9, and 10 do face the possibility of failing however only in grade 10 would failure result in the student having to repeat the year.

A former teacher working with the Mon National Education Committee (MNEC) speculated that students from MNEC possessed a higher degree of education than that of their Burmese counterparts, as students under the MNEC do not need attend outside tuition and they study with teachers closely in a an MNEC school set up in Nyi Sar camp. MNEC operates under the control of New Mon State Party (NMSP). While the Burmese government may continue work towards the image of a successful school system, the real results will be seen in the future generations who must find work. A computer student from Pa-an, Karen state, who dropped out of university after his first year said, “I attended computer class for one year and I could have just learnt computer science from the book since I never even got access to a computer. Some of my friends are also leaving school. “

READ MORE---> Burmese education department lowers the bar in hopes of projecting student success...

Natala villagers stab Rohingya youth in Maungdaw

Maungdaw, Arakan State (KPN): Natala (model) villagers from Taungbro left, a sub-town under Maungdaw Township, stabbed a Rohingya villager on May 10, at about 11:00 pm, when the Rohingya villagers stopped them from catching fish from their shrimp projects, a close relative of the victim said.

On that night, a group of Natala villagers, including women carrying lethal weapons went to nearby shrimp projects of Rohingya villagers, to catch fish. Seeing the Natala villagers, the Rohingya villagers, who were watching for thieves and robbers at their shrimp projects, barred them from catching fishes. However, the Natala villagers defied them and caught fishes from the projects. Hence, there was an altercation between the Natala villagers and Rohingya villagers, who were watching over their projects.

One of the Natala villagers stabbed a Rohingya villager called Salim (20), son of Abu Taher, who hailed from Ward No.1 of Taungbro left Sub-town. Witnessing the incident, the rest of the watchers raised a hue and cry. Hearing the noise, some of the Nasaka and Rohingya villagers rushed to the spot, but the Natala villagers ran away from the scene. However, one of the female Natala villagers accompanied by her child was arrested from the street and was brought to the Nasaka camp.

The victim is not in a critical condition and is being treated at a local clinic, said one of the victim’s family members.

The following morning, on May 11, a group of Nasaka went to the Natala village and arrested five Natala villagers after encircling the village and brought them to the Nasaka camp. They have been detained, a trader from the locality said.

Initially, the State Peace and Development Council’s (SPDC‘s) set up model villages in northern Arakan calling Rakhines from inside and outside of Arakan State. Later, the authorities brought poor Burmans from central Burma, mostly retired civil servants, former prisoners, and street people to establish Natala villages. There is a little difference between a Model village and a Natala village, which is most of the Natala villagers, are Burmans and get many facilities than those of model villagers. The people were not willing to come to Arakan, but they were forcibly brought there. They were even tied by the legs while they were brought to Arakan by ship from Rangoon, said a schoolteacher from the locality.

The Natala villagers frequently create problems for Rohingya villagers. They steal cattle, fowls, goats, vegetables from Rohingya villagers and even rob and kill Rohingya travellers. They are encouraged by the concerned authorities, who give them all the facility and protection to become gangsters in Northern Arakan. Natala villages have resulted in the confiscation of lands and extraction of forced labor from the Rohingya community.

Most of the Natala villagers in Maungdaw Township, do not like to stay in their remote Natala villages, so they go to Maungdaw-Aley Than Kyaw road, establishing tents by the road-side with the cooperation of the local Nasaka authorities. Afterwards, they establish small markets, bar shops, video rooms and even indulge in gambling, said an elderly man from Maungdaw town.

The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) set up a police out-post or army battalions close to Natala villages to give them security. If the Natala villagers commit any crime against the Rohingya villagers, the police or Nasaka take no action against them. But, sometimes, the concerned authority takes slight action against the Natala villagers if necessary to please the Rohingya villagers. Natala villagers never hesitate to commit any crimes against the Rohingya community.

READ MORE---> Natala villagers stab Rohingya youth in Maungdaw...

Nasaka loots cattle, goats from villagers in Maungdaw

Maungdaw, Arakan State (KPN): Nasaka, Burma’s border security force snatched four heads of cattle and 130 goats from a village under the Maungdaw Township alleging that the villagers had not enlisted their new born calves and kids in the animal list.

On May 6, at about 11 pm, two groups of Nasaka personnel from Basara (Tha Win Chaung) outpost camp under the Inn Din village tract of Maungdaw Township went to Kwason village and forcibly took away 130 goats and four heads of cattle to their camp from the village. They alleged that the villagers had not enrolled their calves and kids.

In this village, to enlist new born calves and kids to the Nasaka’s cattle list, villagers have to pay 10,000 kyat per calf and 500 kyat per kid. So, some of the villagers are reluctant to enroll in the Nasaka camp by paying so much money. They also have to go through many kinds of harassment by the Nasaka when they go to the camp for enlistment.

The next day morning, the cattle owners went to the Nasaka camp to get back their animals. But, Nasaka did not return the cattle and goats to the owners.

Besides, on May 7, the Nasaka of the Basara camp ordered the villagers not to go out of the village because Nasaka would go to the village to check the cattle list. They also said if the villagers want to avoid the check, they could pay Kyat 300,000 to the Nasaka.

Learning this, the village elders collected 1,000 to 5,000 per family owning cattle and goats in keeping with their status. They paid the collected money to the Nasaka officer.

According to one villager, Moqul Ahmed (50), son of Asad Jaman and Md. Hussain ( 55) paid Kyat 5,000 per each while Gulbaher(35), a widow, and Hussain Ahmed (40), son of Basa Meah paid Kyat 1,000 each. They are all from Bassara village of Maungdaw Township.

“There is no country in the world except Burma where villagers have to pay money for their new born calves and kids,” a village elder said.

READ MORE---> Nasaka loots cattle, goats from villagers in Maungdaw...

Wa mull over how to say No

Shan Herald Agency for News - As well nigh all ceasefire groups anxiously waited to hear what the United Wa State Army (UWSA) has to say to the latest proposal made by Burma’s ruling generals before giving their own, the group in focus itself has been busy composing a suitable response, according to a highly-placed source close to the leadership.

The source said given the overwhelming opposition to the proposal that the ceasefire groups transform themselves into border defense forces by the generals with a total disregard for their calls for greater autonomy and democracy, the problem was not what to tell the generals but rather how to tell them.

“A meeting was held following the return of (Vice President) Xiao Minliang following his return from Tangyan (where he met Lt-Gen Ye Myint, Chief of Military Affairs Security to hear the Border Guard Force proposition),” he said. “Only 2% were undecided. The rest were of the opinion that the proposal was unacceptable.”

Vice President Xiao Minliang (Photo: UWSA's 20th anniversary publication)

According to him, considering the junta’s policy of self-reliance for its own units, which has caused enormous burden on the local populace, it was better for the UWSA to rely on itself to feed, clothe and equip its own troops. “We also foresee communication problems as few of us are familiar with the Burmese language,” he said. “Having Burmese officers to live among us and train us will not ease the problem.”

The Wa have been given until the end of June to respond to the “ultimatum.” “This is the second time in a year we are receiving an ultimatum,” he remembered.

Following what is known as the “Nargis” referendum on the junta-drafted constitution, the Wa were told to disarm themselves by August 2008. The latter had flatly refused to comply with.

Bao Youliang (Wa supreme leader’s younger brother and finance chief) had also pointed out to Ye Myint during the meeting in Tangyan that given the fact that the two top junta commanders were septuagenarians, it was unfair to demand that Wa officers over 50 retire.

The Wa’s closest ally Mongla is also undergoing several meetings at every level both to explain and sound out about Naypyitaw’s latest proposal. “We will also ask the people whether or not they would like to live under the Burma Army rule,” said a Mongla source.

So far, only about 5% of the leadership who have made huge financial investments in Burma have voted to go along with Naypyitaw’s demand, he told SHAN.

In the meanwhile, automobiles in the areas under the control of the National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS), Mongla’s official name, have been instructed to stand by. No reason has been given.

The Wa have also continued to block the entry of immigration officials who since 4 April have been stranded at Kho Hsoong, which marks the boundary between Panghsang and Mongla’s domains. “Naypyitaw said they would not return without accomplishing their mission (taking census in Wa areas) and the Wa are not letting them in,” explained a source from the nearby Mongyang.

Taking census and reorganization of ceasefire groups under the Tatmadaw supervision are part of the ruling junta’s preparations for the 2010 elections. Thus far, the election law has yet to be announced.

READ MORE---> Wa mull over how to say No...

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too